Green Priestcraft: A ChristoPagan Pastoralia

"Pastoralia" is a somewhat archaic term denoting the spiritual, pastoral, and ritual care of a community.  "ChristoPagan" is a somewhat emergent term denoting a blend of Christian and Pagan thealogy, cosmology, and spirituality.  So, put the two together, and you have the hopefully intriguing (and, to some, infuriating) description of my own journey as a greenpriest.  I trust that folks of various and sundry spiritual persuasions will find something here to pique their interest, deepen their practice, and feed their souls.  Hear the Rune of Sophia: "God is Love, and Her body is all creation.  She is a Tree of Life, who gathers Her children in Love."  This is the conviction which guides me.  Blessed be.

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Under the beautiful crisp clear light of the full moon, our extended farm community gathered together for the “saining of the beasts”.  In our talking circle, we reflected on the realities of the Samhain season, specifically in relation to the animals of the farm.  I gave a bit of history concerning the old Scottish custom of saining (blessing) the herds as they come back from the summer pastures into the closer confines of the homestead.  I spoke as well about the AngloSaxon word for this Novembry season: blodmonath.  The month of blood.  This was the time when the culling of the animals would happen, depending on the size of the herd, the amount of hay stored for winter fodder, and the number of (human) mouths to feed in the community.  So this early winter season was paradoxically a time of both saining and slaughter, blessing and butchering.

For us, as for our ancestors, this is still the reality of a small scale, subsistence, off-grid farming life.  As members of our community processed from the chickens, to the sheep, to the pigs, to the cows, chanting blessings under the moon, we knew that some of these wonderful “more-than-human” persons would soon be filling our freezers and our stewpots.

Saining and slaughter: that is the reality of embracing blodmonath in a spirit of deep respect.  May it be so for your people as well.  Blessed be.

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The Rev. Shawn Sanford Beck is an ecumenical Christian priest, and a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. He is the author of Christian Animism, and the founder of the Ecumenical Companions of Sophia, an informal online community fostering Christian-Pagan dialogue and spiritual practice.  He lives with his family on an off-the-grid farm community in north-western Saskatchewan (Treaty Six Territory), where he is chaplain to the human and more-than-human wights of the community.  When not writing sermons, chopping wood, or practising magic, Shawn can be counted on to have his nose buried in a book. He can be contacted at


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